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Discerning Dysthymia

What is Dysthymia? More commonly referred to as chronic depression, dysthymia is the experience of depression symptoms that last for a significantly prolonged period of time, usually two years or longer. Though dysthymia is generally less severe and has fewer symptoms than typical depression, it is not uncommon to experience a period of major depression while also having dysthymia. This is referred to as double depression.

Trying to figure out what causes dysthymia is just as enigmatic as trying to find the root cause for depression. Some attribute genes as a factor; others consider dysthymia to be the result of a neurological predisposition. Other possible benefactors such as life issues, chronic stressors, childhood trauma, medications, and relationship or work problems are all thought to contribute to the perpetuation of dysthymia. However, none of these reasons seem to fully explain the pervasiveness and longevity of the mental illness to a satisfactory level.

So what are the signs?

Dysthymia has all of the same symptoms as major depression except that they are less frequent and less intense. Those are:
• Sadness or melancholic mood most of the day or almost every day
• Loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
• Major change in weight or appetite (gain or loss)
• Experiencing insomnia or excessive sleepiness
• Lack of motivation
• Constant fatigue and loss of energy
• Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
• Issues with concentrating or indecisiveness
• Suicidal ideation, planning, or attempts

While dysthymia is a chronic and pervasive illness, there are many ways to treat dysthymia so that the illness is manageable. Treatment and certain lifestyle changes not only can temper symptoms of dysthymia, but can also reduce the likelihood of experiencing a major depression episode. A significant amount of treatment for dysthymia involves mental health services, whether it be therapy or psychiatric prescription of antidepressants. Mental health services, particularly psychotherapy or talk therapy, seems to have a good amount of success in treating patients. Talk therapy can help those with dysthymia develop appropriate coping skills for dealing with everyday life and challenge negative thinking. It can also help encourage healthy lifestyle habits that affect mood and to help the patient and family understand dysthymia.

Utilizing mental health services to receive a prescription of antidepressants can also help you treat dysthymia. A doctor or psychiatrist can help you find an antidepressant that will most effective handle your symptom with the least number of side effects.

Establishing an effective treatment plan utilizing mental health services is the most effective way to help you feel better. However, certain lifestyle habits can be incorporated to better your mood and decrease depression symptoms. Eating a balanced diet, drinking water, getting regular exercise, and developing a strong support group are all ways to help you handle your dysthymia better. However, it is important to stay proactive towards maintaining your dysthymia as depression has a way of creeping back in if one does not stay on top of treatment.

Though dysthymia tends to be less intense than a major depressive episode, its chronic and pervasive nature can make the illness frustrating to try to maintain. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for people who suffer from dysthymia to also experience an episode of major depression at the same time. This is why mental health services become so important for someone going through dysthymia. Mental health services will not only help someone treat and maintain their dysthymia but will help avoid a major depression episode. If one is experiencing an episode, the therapist can help the person work through their feelings. Mental health services in Portland, Or can help you feel a little more normal when it seems as if you will never feel quite right.

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